Greetings, fellow gear gluttons! Welcome
back to Stomp School. In last month’s column
we discussed matching pedals to the rest of
your rig, and we discovered that the various
components in your setup, such as the type of
pickups and amp you’re using, can influence
how a particular pedal will ultimately sound.
With this better understanding of the way
each individual piece of gear interacts with the
others, let’s next look at some popular ways
to combine them to achieve specific sounds.
Part of our discussion here concerns overdrive
and dirt tones and the interaction between
your pedals and amp. But before we get into
that, I’d like to take another look at using the
controls on your guitar to elicit different tones
from the same pedal.
Germanium Fuzz Face Clean up Trick
This one may already be pretty widely known,
but I still think it’s worth a mention because it
works so amazingly well. I had actually been
playing for quite a while before I discovered
that you can get a surprisingly useful, totally
clean tone from a good germanium Fuzz Face
pedal simply by rolling back the volume on
your guitar. In comparison, most other fuzz
pedals, including a Fuzz Face with higher
gain silicon transistors, won’t quite get totally
clean. Again, this is nothing new, dating all the
way back to early Hendrix, but it’s a good one
to keep in your bag of tricks.
Roll Back Tone on Neck Humbucker with
Fuzz Pedal Trick
Here’s one of my favorite fuzz pedal tricks.
This isn’t really a big secret either, and I’m
always surprised that more players aren’t
aware of it. Ready? Use a pedal with thick,
saturated fuzz tone and play the neck pickup
on your guitar with the tone control rolled all
the way back. This works especially well on
a dual humbucker guitar, such as a Les Paul.
What a great sound! Think early Santana, or
Robert Fripp with King Crimson.
A Big Muff-type fuzz is ideal to use for this
effect, but most any fuzz pedal with enough
gain will work reasonably well. Steve Hackett of
Genesis employed this technique to great effect
using the neck pickup of his Les Paul Custom
through a Colorsound Supa Tone Bender. This
was also the method Eric Clapton used to create his infamous “woman tone” on the Disraeli
Gears album by Cream. Clapton rolled back
the tone on the neck pickup of his psychedelic
Gibson SG. The fuzz of choice this time was a
Tone Bender MKII, which was then run into a
100-watt Marshall. Strange Brew, indeed!
It’s a super-simple trick, and it works like magic
every time. Rolling off all the high frequencies
eliminates any noise and hiss created by the
fuzz, which results in a singing, violin-like tone
with super long sustain. It’s also the best way
to coax a more prominent upper octave out of
an Octavia. And it works just as well on other
octave-fuzz type pedals, such as a Super Fuzz,
a Tone Machine, or an Ampeg Scrambler.
OK, moving along to the other side of the
signal chain, let’s discuss some tried and true
classic pedal and amp combinations.
Tube Screamer with a Blackface Fender Amp
The smooth, medium-gain overdrive sound
of the Tube Screamer (and its variants) is a
well-loved classic. Though it gained its initial
notoriety as the OD of choice for blues legend
Stevie Ray Vaughan, this ubiquitous green
wonder has withstood more stomping than
nearly any other pedal. A Tube Screamer-type
OD can work with just about any amp, but it
has a distinct midrange “hump” that perfectly
compliments the scooped mids of the Fender
Blackface amp. Classic combination!
The Vox AC30, on the other hand, is quite a
bit more mid-heavy. So a Tube Screamer, while
not necessarily a poor choice, might not be
the best fit for that amp. That’s okay, we can
address that with our next classic combination.
Germanium Treble Booster with a British
In the early 1960s, many British made amplifiers, such as the Vox AC30, were considered by
players to be rather dark sounding, especially
compared to the American-made Fender amps,
which were considered more desirable at the
time. Thus is the origin of the treble booster. The
concept was simply that a murky-sounding amp
could be brightened up using a single transistor
“treble boosting” device. The happy, if unintentional, byproduct was the tone that resulted from
pushing the front end of the amp into overdrive.
The Dallas Rangemaster stands as the quintessential example of this type of treble booster,
and is rumored to have been the secret
weapon used by Eric Clapton with a Marshall
JTM45 combo to achieve his legendary
Bluesbreaker tone. A much better documented fact is Brian May’s use of the Rangemaster
and other treble boosters with his Vox AC30.
Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher used the
Rangemaster/AC30 combination with a Fender
Stratocaster to create his signature sound, and
many have since discovered the magical tones
of a treble-boosted British combo.
That’s about all we have time for now, so
we’ll see you next time. Until then, keep
(a.k.a. Analog Tom) is the owner and proprietor of For
Musicians Only (formusiciansonly.com
) and author of
Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects. Questions or
comments about this article can be sent to:
) is one of the largest boutique
effects manufacturers and retailers in the business, and
it was established by “Analog” Mike Piera in 1993.
Mike can be reached at AnalogMike@aol.com